I am a traveling special education teacher. This means I teach in hard-to-fill positions all over the country. It is an amazing experience to work in a variety of classrooms, student populations, environments, and leadership EVERYTHING.
I gain tons of experience, travel full time, and connect with educators all over.
And it pays super well too!
Here are the 7 most valuable lessons I learned (or re-learned) as a traveling special education teacher.
Travel teachers are needed when districts try and fail to find someone to fill a teaching position, so they rely on an outside agency to find someone to travel to the area and fill that role. This means there are often *special circumstances* that make this job particularly difficult…
Maybe they haven’t had a teacher all year.
Maybe the last teacher left because the current position is emotionally draining.
Maybe the caseload or class size is *not ideal.*
More often than not, the position comes with TONS of overdue paperwork.
It’s a lot to walk into!
(Special Education) teachers in ALL positions have extremely difficult jobs.
It’s even harder to adjust to seemingly impossible working conditions when is not paired with financial security. Teachers pour their heart, soul, time, and energy into a profession that doesn't respect its qualified educators.
Travel teachers are paid more because they have to travel to a new location and face extremely difficult situations. I can tell you from experience that making what I'm worth as an educator makes me a better educator.
There are amazing educators who have only worked in one district their whole careers. They know the needs of their community like the back of their hand and have a wealth of valuable local knowledge.
It’s also possible that because some educators have not worked in other districts- they will believe their (possibly outdated) systems are the best and/or only “correct” way to do things. This often leads to a lack of innovation and rejection of best current practices.
When a traveling teacher joins a school- they are bringing a wealth of knowledge of what does and does not work well in schools all over the country. Travel teachers are fortunate to have experience in a variety of settings. Smetimes they work as a consultant on how conditions can improve to hopefully help the district fill with a district hired permanent teacher when the travel teacher contract is up.
When a traveling teacher steps in- this is often because a district has no choice but to face the issue that the students in their building who need the most support, haven’t been getting it. The students need a TEACHER who not only cares about them but can revaluate their educational plan to ensure they are receiving the services they need to access education.
Families need someone to listen and provide consistency for their students for the rest of the school year. They need to know there is someone they can call if they have questions or concerns, and not feel (as they likely had all year) that their child’s needs have been put on the backburner.
There is no way I could be a traveling teacher if I didn’t have a toolkit of digital resources.
I have a collection of no-prep lessons and classroom tools including mindful class starters, organization tools, test anxiety resources, writing resources, take a break rooms, personality/group work lessons, jeopardy games, escape rooms, digital notebooks, and more to help me with day-to-day planning and provide interactive lessons and tools to make life easier.
When I have this digital toolbox ready to go in my google drive I can stress less and do what is most important- working with students.
You can come into a travel teacher position with the best intentions, ideas, and knowledge, but the people in power at these new positions don’t know you.
You can connect with families and know exactly what needs to happen to create positive changes, but words alone won’t matter.
They don’t have a reason to trust what you say unless you give them something that can’t be disputed…
A strong data collection system is key to making an impact on students that can actually get things done in the world of education bureaucracy. Data collection can be overwhelming especially if there are multiple people working with the student, and in order to write good goals…you need their data.
It can become a mess so I created an easy-to-use data collection system that has made life easier for everyone who works on the IEP. Shared directly with families and updated in real-time- hold everyone accountable and gives families the transparency they deserve.
More to come on this soon :)
Travel teachers are travel teachers because they travel to areas where they are needed. They also cost the school district a lot more money because
a) Travel teachers are paid more.
b) There is an agency overhead fee the district pays to find the travel special education teachers.
This means that contacts are shorter because the district ultimately wants to replace the travel teacher with a district-hired teacher. Travel teachers need to be very flexible, patient, and trust the process of going through periods of time without knowing where and when the next assignment starts.
It can be super overwhelming, but it’s a worthwhile adventure.